One chance, one opportunity, that's all we get in most social situations to make a great (or a dreadful) first impression. When it comes to presenting our lives, sweat-earned achievements, and background to an employer —we get even less than that.
Our resume, a simple piece of paper, is supposed to do most (if not all) of the heavy-lifting to get us closer to the next step of the hiring process.
But hey, I'm assuming you know all of that, so today we are here to examine a different question:
What is considered or counts as volunteer experience?
In the US, according to the Department of Labor, a volunteer is: an “individual who performs hours of service for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation, or receipt of compensation for services rendered”.
So, anybody who performs a service without the expectation of compensation can be considered a volunteer? — yes, but it's not that simple
To determine whether an individual is a true volunteer engaged in “ordinary volunteerism,” we should consider a number of factors. The factors include:
- Is the entity that will benefit/receive services from the volunteer a nonprofit organization?
- Are the services offered freely and without pressure or coercion?
- Are the services of the kind typically associated with volunteer work?
- Have regular employees been displaced to accommodate the volunteer?
- Does the worker receive (or expect) any benefit from the entity to which it is providing services?
A volunteer position at a nonprofit is likely to be regarded as “ordinary volunteerism” and exempt from the minimum wage requirements of the government. If you can answer “yes” to the first three questions and “no” to the final two questions.
But, a couple of caveats.
First, in terms of your volunteer experience being “useful” for your future career endeavors (or resume), these activities must be conducted with an official organization, let's say a non-profit.
A lot of people mistake volunteering with “helping out here and there”. It's not the same to be registered as a volunteer, that to help out in your friend's new company when you have some free time. The WHERE you are volunteering is as important as the act itself, especially if you want it to be worth something for your resume.
Second, do not confuse ordinary volunteering with corporate volunteering —corporate volunteering is the encouragement and facilitation of volunteering in the community through the organization by which an individual is employed– When companies offer paid time off for volunteering, they are literally paying their employees to volunteer.
Technically, yes. In the same way they pay their employees to take a vacation. This is not corporate altruism. Companies offer paid time to volunteer and vacation because they believe those activities benefit the organization.
While we support and think corporate volunteering is amazing for the world, it's safe to say it does not hold up the same value on paper (or your resume) as ordinary volunteering does.
- Ordinary volunteer worked by an individual is performed without the expectation of ANY kind of compensation.
- Volunteer work is beneficial to an entity, preferably an established non-profit organization, if you want it to hold value on paper.
- Corporate volunteering is in a different category, as it not considered an altruistic act.
When is it necessary to list volunteer experience?
With all that preamble out of the way, let's get to the fun part. When should you take the time and effort to list your volunteer experience in your resume or CV?
Sometimes one-word answers are the best, who doesn't love sweet and concise? In this case, that's exactly what it's supposed to be.
Here are a couple of powerful facts to help illustrate the picture:
- According to a new Deloitte study of 2,506 U.S. hiring managers: 82% of interviewers told Deloitte they prefer applicants with volunteer experience, and 92% say volunteer activities build leadership skills. The report also says, only about one in three (32%) of jobseekers mention unpaid community-service experience on their resumes.
- According to an article published by Monster.com volunteers have a 27% higher chance of finding employment after being out of work for some time. At the same time, volunteers without a high school diploma have a 51% higher likelihood of finding employment. Finally, volunteers living in rural areas have a 55% higher likelihood of finding employment.
If that got you a bit more excited about sharing your volunteer adventures in your resume, maybe examining the reasons behind those facts will help seal the deal...
Volunteers are loyal employees
One of the biggest risks any company faces when they hire someone is that, that employee won’t stick with the job.
If you're from my generation (millennials) I can tell you we are always on the lookout for that “better offer”. But, would you like somebody like that to be on your A-team?
Not surprisingly, most companies don't.
It’s true that you may work at a job, find it’s not for you, and look for something else. But showing that you can stick with unpaid volunteer work sends a message to employers that if they spend the time and resources training you for the position, you won’t just up and quit.
The point being, if you’re willing to devote your time to unpaid work, having volunteer experience in your resume tells employers that you’ll be a dedicated hard worker when you are being paid for it. That alone can help set you apart from the pack.
Volunteers are likely to have transferable skills
People who've put their professional skills to work for free —say, a marketing person who's developed a social media campaign for a non-profit— have a slightly bigger edge with hiring managers, Deloitte found, than those whose volunteer work was unrelated to their roles at work.
About 85% of the job interviewers said skills-based activities made candidates better at communicating, and 88% praised those applicants’ “strong character.”
But what if you where helping in a field unrelated to your “professional skills”? The story is quite the same, actually. Those collaborating on different fields unrelated to the job they're looking for, a fewer number of interviewers had the same to say —with an astonishing 77% of them.
So yes, fewer doesn't mean little in this case. Applying your skills for free with a non-profit will give you huge pluses, starting with the obvious, experience. Also, they'll most likely give you a recommendation, or even a recommendation letter if you brought value and (as always) ask nicely for it.
Volunteers can hold their own in an interview
Volunteers have an edge on perhaps one of the most basic but often most forgotten factors, the interview.
If you did all the legwork involved in getting a volunteer position, it's safe to say that you have some experience with interviewing and making your case. Why is that important? At the very least, it tells employers that they won’t be wasting their time in your interview.
Even if a person isn’t right for the job they interview, it should never feel like a waste of time for both parties. If you don’t get the job, the interview hopefully teaches you things about yourself that you can carry on into the next one.
As well, the interviewer can get through the process quickly and efficiently without having to deal with someone who is nervous and stumbling over their words.
In short, volunteer experience in your resume tells potential employers that you at least have flashes of confidence in your own skills. And we all know, confidence can carry you very far in life.
Volunteers develop valuable soft skills
Even if the job you are applying for isn’t directly in the same field that your volunteer work was in, odds are you are still coming in with some transferable soft skills.
These could include things such as team management if you were in a position of people working under you. Interpersonal skills, such as if your volunteer position required you to call people for donations.
A LOT of people have a fear of calling strangers on the phone and asking for things. That fear alone has held many people back from their dream jobs as communication is always a key.
Remember how we are playing the long game? The same thing applies here. Not being a great fit now doesn't mean it won't be in the future. In perspective, every skill is transferable in one way or another, that's what really matters.
How to explain your volunteer experience?
Hopefully you are starting to see the value of showcasing, or better yet, highlighting your volunteer experience on both your resume and potential interviews. But how exactly do you go about doing that? Of course, listing the non-profit you volunteered with is a given, but the rest is what gets most people into trouble.
Your resume, skip the fluff, go for what matters.
Recruiters are used to rolling their eyes and skimming quickly through millions of “fluff filled” resumes out there. What's wrong? There's content, but no clear value.
When describing your volunteer experience, or any kind of experience for that matter, you should focus on one thing only -- achievements and your involvement.
Let's illustrate quickly with an example:
If you managed digital marketing campaigns for a non-profit, you could list it as “created and managed social media campaigns for donations in the US market” – great, that's a good start. In that line you are stating clearly what skills you had to put to use, so your involvement is covered, but what's missing?
The value. To be more exact, the value you generated for the nonprofit. What was achieved with your work? Approximately how many new donors did you sign up? How much money was generated?
Impressive, but realistic data is what we are going for here. Most of the time, it's a matter of picking and choosing what's relevant (and more impactful) for the job you're going for. Adding a quick line such as “generating over $100k in donations in three months” should do the trick.
The interview, why was volunteering important for YOU?
The interview is where you bring all that “fluff” that had no space in your resume to the table. This time, is about communicating your emotions and the reasons why you decided to volunteer in the first place.
Recruiters eat that up! And it's a great way to judge if a person has the soft skills necessary to be a valuable team member for the organization.
Don't skip the work, though, anything you learned is valuable to discuss. Were you in charge of a particular fundraising effort? Had to interact with unknown people to get their information?
Whatever it was, I'm sure you learned something form the experience. If you where lucky to use the same professional skills as the job you're for, then go deep into that.
The marketing example above could lead the conversation in a variety of directions, the campaigns, the impact, it's likely you'll get to choose where to go, so make the most of it.
Where to add volunteer experience in your resume?
Okay important thing not to forget, volunteer experience should never, never ever, be confused with actual work. Most resumes make a clear distinction between both, and that's you are going for.
Resumes (usually) follow a structure, rows where you should showcase your work first, and lastly any side actives that you believe show glimpses of the additional value you bring to the position. These include education, certificates, trainings, and your volunteer experience.
Summarizing, create a section on your resume that clearly states the activities/ achievements you are describing are of a volunteering nature. We want to leave no space for doubt or confusion.
How to get/ ask for volunteer experience?
The great news? Actually looking and securing a volunteer position is way easier than getting an actual job. In most cases, the opportunities are just around the corner! (literally speaking).
If you want to volunteer in-person, all it takes is a quick google search with the name of your city to find a bunch of results that may be a good fit.
However, just like remote work, remote volunteering is actually a thing. Several websites will allow you to connect with charities and non-profits who will gladly accept your help in whatever they need. Design, sales, photography, etc. One of our favorite resources for in-person and remote volunteering is VolunteerMatch . There you can customize your search by location, type, and even remote options! Pretty cool.
Business specific volunteering
Since you are already here, MicroMentor might be your best choice. If you have business skills in any industry or field, then you can volunteer as a mentor to small business owners around the world!
The MicroMentor platform makes it easy for you to sign up, browse, and connect with your perfect mentee.
With a growing community of more than 300k entrepreneurs and mentors worldwide, the ease of use, flexibility, and impact of the MicroMentor network make it one of the best options for professionals who are looking to make a tangible impact in their communities.
After all, what could be better for your resume than “mentoring of small businesses to increase profitability through the application of marketing strategies (or whatever your background is on)” —I would hire you in a heartbeat!
Wrapping it up
I hope this guide proved useful and left no space for doubt in your volunteering journey. Point being, it's totally worth it. If you go out and help the world, you'll be rewarded somehow… a job, some money, or perhaps a coupon.
I don't really know, but it works! Go back to each section if you're still having doubts. Thanks for reading!